Israel limits Palestinian access to holy site
Access to Al-Aqsa mosque compound restricted as third day of Egypt-mediated Gaza-Israel truce is tested.
Israel has restricted Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and arrested six Hamas members, a day after one Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire along the Gaza-Israel border.
The shooting tested a tenious ceasefire agreement signed by Hamas-led Gaza and Israel on Wednesday night.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party are preparing for a primary on Sunday amid signs its popularity is slipping among Israelis who would have preferred a ground invasion of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Tensions on the streets of occupied Arab east Jerusalem were high on Friday, the day after angry demonstrators stormed an Israeli police station in a bid to secure the release of a Palestinian woman who tried to stab a border guard.
The Israeli army has arrested about 100 Palestinians since the ceasefire was signed.
Twenty-eight suspects were arrested from the West Bank, including six Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council on Friday night in the wake of a security sweep on Thursday in which 55 “terror operatives” were arrested.
Israeli authorities said the men had been arrested in connection with a bus bomb attack in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
“Members of this cell in Beit Lakya linked to Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad admitted during their interrogation having planned attacks against Israelis, prepared a bomb and chosen Tel Aviv as a target,” a statement by Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet said on Thursday.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said at the time that more arrests were also expected.
Seperately, Israel has also barred Palestinians under the age of 40 from accessing the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site, which is also revered by Jews.
The mosque compound has been the focus of past clashes, and the Israeli army says it sought to prevent any repetition that could jeopardise the truce ending eight days of fighting in which more than a 160 Palestinians and five Israelis died.
The Egypt-negotiated ceasefire was however holding, despite one Palestinian having been killed by Israeli fire at the border line between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and rockets allegedly having been fired at Israel from Gaza in the first post-truce hours.
The first post-conflict casualty, Anwar Qdeih, was killed when Israeli soldiers reportedly opened fire on a group of farmers near the Gaza border on Friday. Nineteen other Palestinians were injured in the village of Khuzaa.
“This is the first Israeli violation of the truce,” Sami Abu Zuhri of the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza told AFP news agency.
No reprisal rockets were fired by Hamas but Abu Zuhri said he would raise the “violation” with Egyptian mediators.
Another young Palestinian was announced dead on Friday after having “inhaled a poisonous gas” during repairs of a tunnel damaged in an Israeli air strike on the southern sector of Rafah, bordering Egypt, the Hamas health ministry said.